Post-Sine Die Legislative Update

4.24.2014
Scott

2014 Legislative Session:

The 2014 legislative session concluded on March 20, 2014. The House and Senate passed a number of measures, and the Governor has 40 days from the end of the session to either sign or veto these bills. If he opts not to take any action, then the measures will become law.

You can track the legislation that has been signed by visiting https://gov.georgia.gov/bills-signed/2014. In addition, here is a summary of some of the measures passed by the House and Senate:

HB 60 - Originally intended to expand the carrying rights of retired judges, HB 60 was amended to include the language from HB 875, which allows concealed carry license holders to carry firearms in bars (unless specified by the owner), houses of worship (should they allow), unrestricted areas of the airport and unsecure government buildings. The bill prevents law enforcement from requesting to see a permit from potentially unlicensed carriers. Additionally, school employees are permitted to carry concealed weapons on school grounds with the permission of the district.

HB 264 - "The MARTA bill" lifts the 50/50 restriction, which requires that MARTA spend half its revenue on maintenance and operations and the other half on capital, for three years.

HB 697 - Makes revisions to the amounts of and eligibility for HOPE grants. Zell Miller Grant Scholars would now receive full tuition for achieving a 3.5 GPA at a Georgia technical college.

HB 714 - Bus drivers and other seasonal school workers who work for private firms would lose unemployment coverage when school is not in session.

HB 772 - Subjects food stamp and TANF recipients to drug-testing. Recipients must submit to a drug test if a Department of Family and Children Services employee has "reasonable suspicion" based on any reason, including an applicant's "demeanor." Reasonable suspicion also includes working for an employer that regularly conducts drug tests - such as the Department of Defense. In other words, this legislation states that the state has reasonable suspicion to believe that any veteran is a drug user.

HB 774 - The annual budget is the only bill the legislature is required to pass. It passed both the House and the Senate.

HB 810 - Lowers the SAT/ACT requirement for home-schooled students and students graduating from an unaccredited high school or obtaining their GED to obtain HOPE scholarship funds.

HB 837 - Gives for-profit probation firms jurisdiction over state probationers.

HB 845 - Bans the release of any police mug shots unless the person requesting them signs a sworn statement that the photos will not be published on a website that charges for their removal.

HB 943 - Originally intended to require insurance companies to provide coverage for new cancer drugs taken orally, HB 943 was amended to include the language of HB 707, which bars any state or local government or agency from operating a health care exchange or navigator program allowed under the Affordable Care Act. It makes it illegal for any public employee or agency to use state resources or time to advocate for the expansion of Medicaid.

HB 990 - Places the power to expand Medicaid as provided in the Affordable Care Act in the hands of the state legislature instead of the Governor.

HB 1080 -Places a statue of native Atlantan and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. on the grounds of the State Capitol.

SB 98 - Denies abortion coverage to state insurance policyholders and those under policies created through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

SB 296 - Makes determinations on how land on Jekyll Island may be developed.

SB 299 - Gives local authorities leeway in adopting watershed protection standards for buffer areas along streams and reservoirs.

SB 360 - Creates Veterans Courts

SR 415 - Proposes a constitutional amendment to cap the income tax at its current six percent rate.

Did not pass this session:

HB 885 - The medical marijuana bill that would have allowed for the use of cannabis oil for children suffering from seizures did not pass after the House and Senate failed to reach an agreement over some language added by the Senate (SB 397) requiring insurance companies to cover treatment of autism in young patients. Governor Deal has announced a plan to allow clinical trials with cannabis oil for children with epileptic disorders at Georgia Regents University.

SB 167 - Sought to prevent Georgia schools from testing on any material tied to national standards such as Common Core.

SB 350 - Would have required the Division of Family and Children Services to bid out to private firms several functions such as case management, family preservation and independent living.

SB 377 - "The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act," which many believed would allow business owners to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, resurfaced on Sine Die, but was ultimately withdrawn.

Local Legislation:

I authored House Bills 905 and 906 to legislatively set the borders of Chamblee and Brookhaven to reflect the outcome of last November's vote. These measures were necessary to set the borders and to end a lawsuit that remains pending.

I also authored House Bills 1138 and 1139 to allow for Doraville's annexation of unincorporated property. HB 1138 provides for annexation and HB 1139 provides for a referendum for annexation.

Cityhood initiatives:

As you know, during the session I frequently reported to you about the efforts by citizen groups supporting the Briarcliff, Lakeside and Tucker initiatives. By Georgia law, creating a city is a two-step process. The first step is to get the legislature to approve putting a cityhood referendum on the local ballot. The second step would be to receive majority approval from the people who live within the proposed city limits. The legislature did not authorize any DeKalb cityhood referendum this session.

Many of you living within the boundaries of the proposed cities were very involved in the cityhood efforts. I respect the hard work and passion behind all these efforts and I know that many of you continue to work toward cityhood. It is important to understand what happened in the legislature so we all understand where this effort stands for the next session.

In the final days of the session, many legislators from outside DeKalb decided that they were unwilling to endorse any one cityhood proposal over another for the people of DeKalb. When a deal between Lakeside and Tucker was ultimately negotiated, there was not enough time to thoroughly examine the new boundaries in order to pass the legislation. Moreover, there was not enough time for public input, which is critical to this process.

Going forward, I believe the legislature will be willing to consider one or more cityhood referenda for DeKalb. But to get this done, the cityhood groups will need to work with each other.

As this process continues, I will work hard to provide leadership and to ensure that the process is transparent, fair and inclusive. Please continue to share your ideas with me, and to work collaboratively with your fellow citizens so that the end result is something we can all be proud of and will stand the test of time.

Education:

Yesterday, the Georgia Department of Education released the College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores. You can view the scores here (http://www.gadoe.org/External-Affairs-and-Policy/communications/Pages/PressReleaseDetails.aspx?PressView=default&pid=175)



Very best,

Scott



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